Working through Ephesians gives you a fresh view of the church. The church is a diverse group of people created by the gracious power of God. From the world’s perspective, this diverse group has few reasons to live and work together, let alone care for and love each other. Because of this, the Christian community is attractive when lived out. However, that is not always the case. Unfortunately, not everyone pursues unity, while some church members actively sow disunity. These members can destroy the church, Christ’s body. This article is both a challenge to individuals and a warning to the church.
1. The Arm Chair Critic
Cynicism is the new cool. In a world dominated by social media being cynical is easily mistaken for wisdom and enlightenment. In Christian circles, people build entire ministries on cynicism. Their focus is always on what’s wrong with everyone else. And in our self-deception we have veiled our critical spirits as discernment.
Unfortunately, not everyone pursues unity, while some church members actively sow disunity. These members can destroy the church
The arm chair critic is a fastidious faultfinder. However he is only concerned with the failings and faults of others. Typically, he is apathetic to the life of the church. The arm chair critic might even be disappointed in the face of success. They are quick to condemn and slow to commend. They have falsely placed themselves as judge, yet ironically you never hear them admit wrong. Cynics are never pleased or satisfied.
As Paul Maxwell wrote at Desiring God, “Cynicism is so undetectable because it is so justifiable. It wears a mask of insight and godliness, but it conceals festering wounds of harboured bitterness against God and neighbour. We need to understand cynicism, because the masks we wear tell us about the wounds we hide, and point us to the Savior who yearns to mend them.” More often than not, cynicism hides the wounds of hatred and bitterness. This type of member destroys unity. They threaten its joy.
More often than not, cynicism hides the wounds of hatred and bitterness. This type of member destroys unity. They threaten its joy
2. The Non-Attending Member
It amazes me how many people are eager to be members of a local church without willing and faithful commitment. It is quite common for there to be a significant discrepancy between the membership roll and participatory members. Most churches have more members on paper than in reality.
The New Testament model shows believers meeting weekly to worship God and serve one another (1 Corinthians 11; 16:2). It warns believers about non-attendance (Hebrews 10:23-25). This invariably means that non-attending members are wilfully disregarding the Lord’s command to fellowship. Hebrews 10 points to active discipleship and relationships—more than mere attendance.
More often than not, cynicism hides the wounds of hatred and bitterness. This type of member destroys the unity. They threaten its joy
Granted there are some valid reasons for not attending church and participating in the lives of other believers—for a time. But consistent non-attendance indicates the desire to be served, to benefit from the gifts of others. This is coupled with a refusal to use God’s gifts in service of the local body of believers.
3. The Divisive Member
Divisive people are often driven by the desire to win approval and be in charge. They want their point to be taken, implemented; they want absolute agreement from everyone else. Their expectation is that they will be consulted regarding every issue and decision. When this doesn’t happen they rise up in arms. The funny thing about people with a divisive spirit is that they may actually have a sincere concern about an issue or the church’s well-being. However, the way this is communicated – directly or through gossiping – reveals undesirable character traits. This kind of attitude rips churches apart.
Know the difference between being divisive and desiring the best for your church. If your actions result in divisions and conflict then assess both your heart and your actions
Jamie Dunlap sums it up perfectly in his article at IX Marks, “We rally support to get people to see things our way. Behaviour like that, no matter the virtue of the original concern, quickly causes factions and dissension within the church, something Paul lists alongside idolatry, witchcraft, and fits of rage (Galatians 5:20). We must address discontentment carefully because it so often bears the fruit of discord.” Know the difference between being divisive and desiring the best for your church. If your actions result in divisions and conflict then assess both your heart and your actions.
4. The Busy-Body
Meddlers are often gossipers. They are in the business of gathering information about people and their affairs. But the purpose behind this is sharing that information with others. They have an inquisitiveness masked as care and concern, when in actual fact they simply cannot mind their own business. Such people make discipleship and healthy relationships very difficult. Because they create the need to be guarded. Busy bodies also bring strife between people. They are always in the middle of conflict.
Self-Centeredness Drives Them All
The arm chair critic, the non-attending member, the divisive member and the busy-body have one common thread running through them: self-centeredness. They have missed the very essence of salvation: a transformed life committed to loving God and people with every ounce of your being. These attitudes have missed the fact that the church of God does not exist for their comfort and happiness but for the glory of God. And in God’s design, that means loving people with diverse preferences and opinions and yet still loving like Christ loved us. The result? Oneness that displays the power, wisdom and glory of God and becomes a powerful witness to the world.
These attitudes have missed the fact that the church of God does not exist for their comfort and happiness but for the glory of God.